All people who follow Christ are “Christians”, but not all people who call themselves “Christians” follow Christ. Now if that is clear as mud, let me explain. There are people who profess to be “Christians” who are closer to practicing atheists. You’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them, and you may even be one of them! Their fruits or actions are not consistent with those of a person who has been freed from the shackles of sin. They are “Christians” in name only. They are hopeless slaves to sin. They lack the fruits of the spirit, which are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (see Galatians 5:22-23). They have a type of religion, but it is fraudulent. They are the flea market Gucci purse that, when you look inside, is cheaply made of vinyl.
You must understand this, if you are to overcome one of the most common arguments against placing one’s faith and hope in Christ. Many non-Christians will say that we are hypocrites or that Christians are just as wicked as everyone else in the world. Well, you have to admit that sure seems the case, too many times. To ignore this perception, only damages the credibility of your witness. Don’t attempt to defend the in-defensible. Isn’t it odd that the godless don’t have much trouble seeing those who hypocritically profess to follow Christ, yet their supposed “brothers and sisters in Christ” seem oblivious or unable to address the inconsistencies in their lives?
Personally, I don’t automatically assume the spiritual condition of those who profess to follow Christ, because I don’t want my assumptions to be used by them to help silence the Holy Spirit who may be bringing conviction in their soul. That probably annoys some folks, but it seems less harmful to me that to assume that all people who say they are “Christians” actually have saving faith.
If you admit that many people who claim to be “Christians” are not (see Matthew 7:21), you will have better credibility when sharing the Gospel with those who are having a difficult time seeing past the hypocrisy of some professing “Christians” and the apparent impotence of the saving power of Christ.